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Why Iron Man Uses Arc Reactor

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Reading: Why Iron Man Uses Arc Reactor

During all the later films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) still uses his arc reactor despite having the shrapnel removed from his chest in Iron Man 3. Jon Favreau's Iron Man in 2008 saw the origin story of MCU's inaugural hero. After being ambushed during his trip to Afghanistan, Tony's life was in balance with shrapnel threatening his heart. Most was removed by Ho Yinsen (Shaun Toub), with the surgeon creating an electromagnet device powered by a car battery to keep the remaining scraps from entering his heart. Stark improved on this by miniaturizing the original arc reactor running his facility to power not only his chest piece but also the Mark I suit for his escape plan.

By Iron Man 3, Tony finally found a way to get the remaining shrapnel removed from his chest, making the internal arc reactor unnecessary. The hero went around not wearing it in his succeeding appearances in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, and Spider-Man: Homecoming. However, when he re-emerges before the impending arrival of Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Avengers: Infinity War, he's once again sporting a different arc reactor on his chest.

Related: Avengers: Endgame's Tony/Howard Stark Scene Explains Iron Man's Sacrifice

As established, the first arc reactor had two purposes when it was first created. While Tony no longer needed the arc reactor to keep the shrapnel from entering his heart after Iron Man 3, it's still necessary to power up his suits. Instead of attaching it to his body, he fitted each of his suits with their own arc reactors until Homecoming. According to The Art of Avengers: Infinity War, Tony Stark subsequently replaced the arc reactor for an "RT" unit, which in the comics is fusion powered, and houses nanobots for the Mark 50 Bleeding Edge suit. Pepper questions the need to have this back on his chest; Tony downplays its existence, saying, "It's just a housing unit for nano parts." He even mentions the surgery in Iron Man 3 but insists that it's for protection in case something bad comes up.

why iron man uses arc reactor

Fans can actually see the nanobots coming out of the RT node during the opening New York battle in Infinity War where Tony, Doctor Strange, Banner, and Wong (Benedict Wong) fight Black Order members Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian. As Iron Man taps his chest piece, small particles come out of it and mold his suit to his body. Prior to the Bleeding Edge armor, it took Tony longer to access his suits, so he had to go to great lengths to make sure they were always within reach; he even had one stashed in his helicopter as seen in Civil War. However, he knew that any threat – most especially the one he had dreading about since The Avengers – can come any time, motivating him to find a better way to keep a suit with him at all times. This is the reason why he made sure that the Mark 50 was with him wherever he goes with the RT node now on his chest, making it all possible.

After his three week ordeal floating in space after their loss to Thanos, a shrunken and emotional Tony rips out the same RT node from his chest and hands it off to Captain America during his Avengers: Endgame outburst. From there, viewers can see that the tech is just attached to his skin, with the surgical wounds from Iron Man 3 fully healed.

More: Avengers: Age of Ultron Foreshadowed Thor’s Infinity War Failure


Key Release Dates
  • Black Widow (2021)Release date: Jul 09, 2021
  • Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release date: Sep 03, 2021
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
  • The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2023)Release date: Jul 28, 2023

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